vol7 | spring '09 to june '10

Ken Weathersby at Pierogi

From May 28 - June 27, Pierogi (177 N9th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) has a show of Ken Weathersby's paintings. In the gallery's press notes, the artist lays out some fundamental groundwork:

Paintings are visual objects. Usually we think of the 'object' part as supporting the 'visual,' of the wooden stretcher and canvas as just being there to hold up the image that we are meant to see. But those two different aspects can play with or against each other to open other thoughts or yield different problems. When the painting not only presents, but also denies pleasure or information, it complicates things. It can require some deciphering. It must be held in the mind as well as seen.

The somewhat neutral grids initially seem impenetrable; still, one is drawn in. The pieces invite looking in two ways: they are beautifully crafted objects, and they offer a puzzle. In each piece shown below a concise question is set up.

In 165 (wky), for instance, there are two diamond-shaped insets, one slightly offset from the original surface, and the second one reversed, prompting the question, what is the shift or opposition about? Further, there is something a little unsettling about the way the object itself seems to ask the question. The grid makes this challenge optically striking: the uniformity of the grid sets up an expectation that it be maintained, but then it is broken, most dramatically, by the reversed inset.
artwork by Ken Weathersby at Pierogi
176 (ocg) / 16x22"
painting behind slightly larger painting
artwork by Ken Weathersby at Pierogi
165 (wky) / 36x56"
canvas with removed & replaced area, and removed & reversed area
artwork by Ken Weathersby at Pierogi
173 (lnd) / 24x18"
reversed canvas with removed & reversed areas

This, That and the Other Thing

The following are images from four separate gallery visits. The first is Ghada Amer, from her show at Cheim & Reid, Color Misbehavior (547 W25th St / may 6 - june 19). Next is an Alan Saret, seen at James Cohan (533 W26th St). After that is part of an installation by Banks Violette at Gladstone (530 W21st St / Feb 12 - Apr 17). Finally, is a painting by Ian Kiaer at Tanya Bonakdar (521 W21st St / may 6 - june 19) — gorgeous yellow on a slightly translucent support that gives it a delicate, almost ephemeral quality.
artwork by Ghada Amer at Cheim & Reid
Ghada Amer
artwork by Alan Saret
Alan Saret
artwork by Banks Violette
Banks Violette
artwork by Ian Kiaer
Ian Kiaer

David Benjamin Sherry

This was part of a four person show at at Sikkema-Jenkins & Co (530 W22nd) from March 13 - April 10. While done with traditional photographic technique, the images have been radically manipulated to produce vivid mostly monochrome color palettes. I love the installation using unframed prints and improvised arrangement on the walls which sets up strong color interplay between the images.
artwork by David Benjamin Sherry
artwork by David Benjamin Sherry artwork by David Benjamin Sherry

The Big Kahuna

This was a giant of a show at Peter Blum (99 Wooster St / mar 12 - may 8) which presented Formulation Articulation, 1972, a collection of 127 silkscreen plates produced by Josef Albers and organized into two portfolios, each containing 33 folders on which one, two, or four silkscreen plates are printed. Albers, while in his 80's, created the set over a period of two years. The gallery press release notes that "the collection is not a retrospective of past works, yet the images represent a gathering of over 4 decades of the artist's investigations into color, perception, and abstraction."

This felt like a bit of a turning point for me in my attititude towards Albers. I have since graduate school felt a need to keep my distance from him. Somehow the homage to the square paintings seemed like academic exercises to me. This show however, revealed a wonderful freshness to the color that I had not experienced before. And — given my willfull avoidance — I was not fully aware of the diversity of his explorations or how absolutely iconic to modern design they are.

Note, there is a well produced book out of this series, but examining it at the front desk of the gallery, I was definitely aware of the gap in the color between the book images and the silkscreens. That said, I may still pick it up.
print by joseph albers print by joseph albers
print by joseph albers print by joseph albers

"Kick it in, Patti Lee"

Some of us are born rebellious. Reading the story of Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford, I identified with her mutinous spirit. I remember passing shop windows with my mother and asking why people didn't just kick them in. She explained that there were unspoken rules of social behavior, and that's the way we coexist with people. I felt instantly confined by the notion that we are born into a world where everything was mapped out by those before us. I struggled to suppress destructive impulses and worked instead on creative ones. Still, the small rule-hating self within me did not die.

When I told Robert of my child-self's desire to shatter windows, he teased me about it.

"Patti! No. You're the bad seed," he said. But I wasn't.

Sam on the other hand, identified with the little story. He had no problem imagining me in my little brown shoes itching to cause a ruckus. When I told him I sometimes had the impulse to put my foot through a window, he just said, "Kick it in, Patti Lee. I'll bail you out." With Sam I could be myself. He understood more than anyone how it felt to be trapped in one's skin.

&mdash Patti Smith from Just Kids

This is from Patti Smith's excellent new memoir about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. For another sample, there's a good podcast of her reading from the book done by San Francisco public radio/TV station KQED on a program called The Writer's Block. I was especially taken by the last section of the reading which describes the day Mapplethorpe shot the cover image for her first album, Horses, in 1975. Get it at iTunes or listen here. / mar 15, '10

Whitney Biennial + Art Fair Weekend

artwork by Petah Coyne at ADAA Show Petah Coyne
artwork by Jessica Craig Martin at Armory Show Jessica Craig Martin
artwork by Petah Coyne at Armory Show
Jacob Kassay
artwork by Takaaki Izumi at Armory Show Takaaki Izumi
artwork by Doug Aitken at Armory Show Doug Aitken
artwork by Ivan Navarro at Armory Show Ivan Navarro
On March 5th, I attempted a major feat of art ingestion: could one swallow both the Whitney Biennial and the Armory Art Show in one day? Yes! I did it, but only by nearly racewalking past the last 75 or so galleries of the art fair.

This year's smaller biennial, which runs through May 30, is tighter, more coherent, and better than usual. Since no pictures are allowed in the museum, I'll just mention several favorites.

One of the first pieces I encountered was a video installation by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, a collective of five artists. A video lamentation/meditation on America, We like American, America Likes Us, is projected on the front window of a ambulance-hearse. The video presents an America defined by a collage of youTube clips, Hollywood movies and news media fragments. The narration &mdash as aptly spelled out by the wall label &mdash "describes an ambivalent, yearning relationship ... as if the country were a dysfunctional family or abusive lover." I found the piece moving, powerful and very fitting for the wierd, unhappy place we are living in.

Other standout work includes Suzan Frecon's large spare paintings. She was my studio neighbor for several years, and I love her work. I understand she will be having a show at David Zwirner soon also. R. H. Quaytman has a room full of cool pieces (diamond dust!) which kick around a variety of ideas from the museum's architecture to one of it's Hoppers. I didn't really know her work before, but Miguel Abreu Gallery has a very good selection of images to get acquainted with the work.

The Armory Show on Piers 92 and 94, with 289 galleries was ridiculously large and really exhausting. The following day I actually hit one more fair, the ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America) show, which confusingly is in the Armory on Lexington Avenue but is not connected with the Armory Show (on the westside piers). I just want to post a few images, the 1st from the ADAA show, a piece by Petah Coyne, and the rest from the Armory Show.

The next image is a Jessica Craig Martin photo printed on canvas in an edition for the non-profit, Art Production Fund. At $250, I almost purchased it. Next is a yummy silver painting by Jacob Kassay at the Eleven Rivington booth. Then there is Takaaki Izumi's "Pallet" with the Taru Nago Gallery from Tokyo. The large lightbox piece, The Handle Comes Up, The Hammer Comes Down is by Doug Aitken. The last image is Ivan Navarro's Kick (drum, neon, mirror, 1-way mirror) at Daniel Templeton.

"The Perpetual Dialogue" at Andrea Rosen

light panel piece by Erik Wysocan,2009
Erik Wysocan
panel and overhead projector piece by daniel lefcourt
Daniel Lefcourt
In January I saw this diverse and meaty show at Andrea Rosen (525 W24) featuring work by 31 artists and 14 curators. Rosen describes the show as "non-thematic" with "the vague criteria to choose artists who are under known." She decided to build the show around her "ongoing process of talking about what people are looking at with collectors, artists, curators, writers, and gallery staff." The outcome "is an image of what the art world can be at its best: a place that is about a constant flow and exchange of ideas, an engine for excellence, a place of collaboration and constructive competition, of extremes and diversity and endless discovery." I like the concept, and the outcome is an adventurous and engaging show.

To the left and below are three images (check the gallery for more). The first piece (20 x 26 x 6 inches) is by Erik Wysocan. The list of materials alone is interesting: light panel, polarizing film, glass, packing tape and acetate. Given the unusual optics of the piece, it was a little hard to photograph, but you get a decent semblance from my snapshot. This is a knock-out piece, and a real turn-on for me given my own investigations of lightboxes and reflective materials. The next piece is by Daniel Lefcourt. It consists of an overhead projector with a pattern which is projected on a panel. I've seen some of his painting here and there, and really like his work overall. Lastly, is a lightbox piece by Robert Heinecken, "Christmas Mistake", from 1972 (61 x 39"). Funny!
light box piece by Robert Heinecken, 1972
Robert Heinecken

Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-70

This was a stupendous show curated by Tim Nye at David Zwirner (525 W19 / January 8 - February 6, 2010). Like the Rosen show, it's an exceptionally intelligent production.

The show surveys the distinctive vein of minimalism being produced in the Los Angeles area which, as the press release describes it, distinguished itself with "its emphasis on surface, synthetic materials, industrial processes, and perception." This interest in "seductive surfaces" and the "luminescent use of color and light" can be seen as a reaction "to local concerns with light and atmosphere, often evoking the qualities of the bright Los Angeles sunlight and the shiny, finished surfaces of the city's ubiquitous signs and automobiles." The ten artists in this survey include Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Laddie John Dill, Robert Irwin, Craig Kaufman,John McCracken, Helen Pashgian, James Turrell, De Wain Valentine an Doug Wheeler.

The first image is Douglas Wheeler's Untitled (1969), from his "Light Encasement" series begun in 1965. These pieces were comprised of large squares of plastic with neon lights embedded around their inside edges, and are usually hung on a wall of a empty white room of precise proportions.

The next four images are two pieces (two images each) by Larry Bell. He developed a "delicate, vacuum-coating technique to achieve semi-reflective exteriors." These pieces are amazing to see first hand, and to photograph, owing to the continually shifting reflections and refractions they generate as one moves around them.

Next are two plexiglass Craig Kaufman pieces. They were produced using a "vacuum-formed molding procedure developed for commercial signage." The last three images are by John McCracken. The first two are the piece Think Pink from his signature plank series. The last is Theta-Two. For more images and descriptions, check out the gallery's website.
think pink by john mccracken 2nd view, think pink by john mccracken
theta-two by john mccracken

music | year end thing

A list of some favorite musical things of the last year. This first group includes albums and live performances. Recordings are not necessarily all of recent vintage, but are new to me.
• Juana Molina | Un Día and live performance at Le Poisson Rouge. Nice video of her on KCRW in LA.
• Will Bernard | Blue Plate Special
• Charlie Hunter | Baboon Strength
• Sonny Terry | Harmonica and Vocal Solos
• Land of Talk | Some are Lakes and Aplause Cheer Boo Hiss -- best rock albums I've discovered this year
• Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics | Inspiration Information
• Karl Hector and the Malcouns | Sahara Swing
• Jim Hershman Trio | live performances at the Bar Next Door (129 MacDougal Street)
• Cat Power | Dark End of the Street + Jukebox + live at Terminal 5 -- terrible venue, but still a great show
• Mark Ribot | live solo performance at The Stone -- $10 to sit a few feet away an performer with such a big reputation? Amazing.
These are some individuals tracks.
• Billy Larkin and the Delegates | "Pygmy (Part 2)" -- doesn't seem to be commercially available, but try google
• Bob Dorough | "Devil May Care" -- 1956 album, his 1st as a leader
• Bad Plus (with Wendy Lewis) | "How Deep is Your Love" from For All I Care -- another brilliant cover
• Slavic Soul Party | "Taketron" -- marching band meets scorching jazz-klezmer combo
• Bill Evans | "Never Let Me Go" from Alone
• Amina Claudine Myers | "Wasted Life Blues" from Amina Claudine Myers Salutes Bessie Smith
• Lal Waterston and Oliver Knight | "The Altisdora" from Once in a Blue Moon
• Aphex Twin | "Jynweythek Ylow" and "Avril 14" from the Marie Antoinette Soundtrack
• The Black Eyed Peas | "Pump It" from Monkey Business and "Meet Me Halfways" from The Energy Never Dies
• Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield | "Season of the Witch" from The Lost Concert Tapes
Last, a radio program I love to listen to -- mostly via archived webcast --
• Monica | weekly program on WFMU Sunday evenings -- program archives and playlists

Flavin Installation

In early December I saw this great Dan Flavin insallation at David Zwirner (519 W19th St). The piece, Alternating Pink and Gold, was originally created in 1967 for his first solo museum show, which was at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The Zwirner press release explains that the installation "comprised alternating units of pink and gold fluorescent light, installed at progressively larger intervals from one another, beginning at the center of each wall" with one of each color paired together at that midpoint. Lamps are then spaced from the centerpoint at increasing intervals (2 feet, then 4, then 6, etc.). Note, the color in my photos is somewhat muted from their true quality.
Dan Flavin installation image 1 at David Zwirner Dan Flavin installation image 2 at David Zwirner
Dan Flavin installation image 3 at David Zwirner Dan Flavin installation image 4 at David Zwirner
Dan Flavin installation image 5 at David Zwirner Dan Flavin installation image 6 at David Zwirner


Jean Nouvel Tower in Chelsea

There's a cool Jean Nouvel building going up in Chelsea along 11th Avenue at W19th Street. This is right across the street from the Frank Gehry building that went up not too long ago.
new Jean Nouvel building on 11th Avenue in Chelsea new Jean Nouvel building on 11th Avenue in Chelsea

galleries | summer09

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, "Black Acid Co-op" at Deitch Projects (18 Wooster/through aug15); Lots of wierdness here &mdash a whole mazelike warren of rooms has been constructed inside the gallery; sign a release to wander through this decaying structure and see among other things an extensive abandoned meth lab and an odd LES-like Chinese store including awful airbrush porn t-shirts.
large installation by Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman

Destroy All Monsters: Hungry for Death at Printed Matter, Inc. (195 10th Ave, near W22/may30-aug29). Destroy All Monsters is a band, whose original line-up included Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara and Jim Shaw. They formed in 1973 and they played an "unorthodox suburban dystopian psyche music" (as described in the gallery's press release). The show exhibits material culled from the collective's archives.
work by the band Destroy All Monsters

Here's a colored mirror piece (~18x14") by Josiah McElheny in a good show at Carolina Nitsch Project Room celebrating 25 years of Parkett magazine (534 W22/june25-aug7). Below that, and also in the show was a plexi and aluminum piece by Liam Gillick. I'm remembering a toy I had as a kid made of smaller pieces, but very much like those plexi sections; wish I could remember what that was called.
mirror piece by Josiah McElheny
plexi and aluminum piece by Liam Gillick

At Cheim & Read is "The Female Gaze, Women Look at Women" featuring a diverse group of artists (547 W25/june25-sept19). The gallery statement frames the show as a critical take on the notion of the male gaze (as pointedly laid out by Laura Mulvey in "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"). The first image is an Alice Neel painting, "Alice" (1975), paired next to Nan Goldin's "Amanda at the Sauna, Hotel Savoy" (1994). Following the first picture are full images of each work.
painting by Alice Neel titled Alice
photograph by Nan Goldin

A sharp contrast to the Cheim & Read show is a show of drawings by Basil Wolverton at Gladstone Gallery (515 W24/june20-aug14). There are lots of grotesque, freaky female caricatures. He was best know for his work for Mad Magazine, but he also did a series from the Book of Revelations, including this Eve (below).
drawing of Eve with snake by Basil Wolverton

The show "6 works, 6 rooms" at David Zwirner has six key minimal or conceptual works (515 W24th/june20-aug14). Of course, my attention automatically gravitated to the bronze John McCracken piece, "Swift" from 2007. The gallery press release nicely quotes the artist describing his work as both "materialist and transcendentalist."
mirrored bronze slab by John McCracken

galleries | may09

Gaylen Gerber installation at Wallspace (619 W27) (may21-june27); a collaborative project with Joe Scanlon.
installation by Gaylen Gerber at Wallspace May 09

Greg Bogin at Leo Koenig (525 W19/apr17-may30)
artwork by Greg Bogin

Cheryl Donegan in "Slough" at David Noland (527 W29/may28-june23) (silver tape on sheet metal on cardboard, 17x24")
artwork by Cheryl Donegan
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